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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. pugs of the frozen north: work in progress

If you wonder why I haven't been blogging much recently, it's because of THIS. Here's a preview sampler of a couple chapters of my upcoming book with Philip Reeve, Pugs of the Frozen North:



The artwork for the whole book is due very soon and I'm working with the energy of a whole pack of 66 pugs on it! It's not easy, drawing 66 pugs. I must be careful with my pug count:



Hee hee, and they are quite noisy, too:



I'm drawing it the same way I did for Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space but with a different colour this time (turquoise). My favourite part of the job is using my dip pen and India ink to draw the ink layer, after I've done the pencil rough drafts:




Here I am at the library, doing some of the digital colouring.



Check out some of the printed pictures in the Pugs sampler! Funnily enough, there aren't any pugs in these chapters, it's all about YETIS. Who make noodles from snow.



Why have a Yeti Noodle Bar in the middle of our book? Well, because I've always wanted to draw a Yeti Noodle Bar, that's why.



But you can't just eat your noodles and run. Oh, no.



Much frozen landscape:



And eccentric characters, including lovely bearded Helga Hammerfest and super chic Mitzi Von Primm.



I've been posting the occasional peek at the artwork on Twitter, so feel free to click over and have a peek here!


From The Bookseller, Fiona Noble's top picks

(Click here for a peek at Dinosaur Police!)

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2. ireland: mountains to sea book festival 2015

I used to think Dun Laoghaire in Ireland was pronounced 'dun leg hair', but in fact, you say it 'dun leery'. And that's where I went this weekend for Mountains to Sea Book Festival, along with a gorgeous gaggle of other writers, illustrators and book people, including this gang here: Oxford Story Museum's Tom Donegan, writer Judi Curtin, fellow space cadet and co-author Philip Reeve and writer Steve Cole:



But I'm so madly busy working on Pugs of the Frozen North right now (my upcoming book with Philip Reeve), that Philip kindly offered to do the blogging for me! So pop over to his blog for ALL OF THE NEWS:


***Keep reading Philip's blog here!***

Huge thanks to organiser and writer Sarah Webb for making everything go so smoothly! Also, big thanks to Oxfordshire Book Awards for making There's a Shark in the Bath your runner-up winner in the Picture Book category. Fab!



One more thing, journalist Fiona Noble in The Bookseller magazine just featured Pugs of the Frozen North as one of her top books to watch out for. Thanks, Fiona!

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3. nom-o-tron, mk II

Look, we have a shiny new Nom-O-Tron to take to Ireland this weekend for our Cakes in Space event! My co-author Philip Reeve built it, using the blindingly amazing power of SCIENCE.



See you soon, Mountains to Sea festival! Here's the previous Nom-O-Tron, which was state-of-the-art when it came out. But it had synthesised so much space food that it was falling into disrepair and its software needed upgrading. (These scientific machines go obsolete so quickly! The bane of our existence.)


Photo by Steve Babb at the Manx Lit Fest

And I've been busy packing. It always takes me ages, I don't know why.



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4. cuckoo song

This:


And the book that has been making me SO RESENTFUL at the rest of the world this week has been Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song. I've been working like the clappers on Pugs of the Frozen North and haven't had anytime to do anything practical, much less read or watch telly. But I stole very late hours of the night to read Cuckoo Song and was completely hooked.

The story's very dark; at the beginning the young narrator is trying to convince her family and the sister who hates her that she's perfectly sane, while she can see herself falling apart. What looks like a descent into hysteria comes with an intriguing twist to the tale, that turns it from an Edwardian story about a fragile girl into something much wilder and folkloric.



One of the things that struck me about Cuckoo Song was that it's a perfect gift for inspiring art student drawings. A girl with cobwebs leaking from her eyes, whose hair keeps turning into leaves, and who has bits of ribbon and Edwardian keepsakes peeking out of her unraveling seams. A tough but glamourous fast-living jazz woman named Violet with a hard bobbed haircut and a motorcycle, who's chased by frost and snow; wild tram rides over rooftops... it all begs to be drawn. I hope someone animates the book, it'd make a cracking good film. So A+ to Frances for conjuring up all these amazing images in words. She's a wonderful wordsmith. And I'm sure everyone at some point can relate to what the younger sister says, when she accuses her big sister: 'You're getting everything just a bit wrong. Everything. All the time. And sooner or later they'll notice.' Or with Violet, who just keeps moving, to avoid disaster.

Also, congrats to Frances for Cuckoo Song for being shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal yesterday. Yay! You can read a short Telegraph review or a longer Guardian review, but the longer one does slightly come with spoilers.

I partly wanted to read this book because I keep hearing amazing things about Frances's writing, but also because I keep running into her at book festivals and saying, 'I really must read your book'. And it was just getting silly, because I hadn't, but I'm so glad I DID! Now I must go and read all her other books. Oh, and also because she wears very fine hats, and I like a good hat.



Speaking of hats, I got this tweet from Shea Wong with a photo of a lovely thing her 4-year-old son had made. They'd used my guide for turning a pound-shop felt Easter bucket into a pillbox hat, and it looks ace!



So don't say you can't afford a good Easter hat, if there's a Poundland anywhere near you, heh heh. (I should have added that you can make it stay on if you attach a bit of thin elastic to go around the back of your head.)





And, see you soon, Ireland! I'm off to the Mountains to Sea book festival in Dun Laoghaire tomorrow (just outside Dublin) and I'm doing one Cakes in Space school event, and three public ones, including Cakes in Space with Reeve, a panel discussion on becoming a children's book writer or illustrator, and a family drawing and storytime for There's a Shark in the Bath. You can see all the events listed on my Events Page.

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5. cakes in space and jampires hit leicester!

Leicester earthlings got a surprise last week when my co-author Philip Reeve and I teleported in with our Cakes in Space roadshow! We drew a picture of ourselves, in case we couldn't be seen because our costumes were so blindingly shiny:



We were thrilled to take part in Leicester Author Week, and this is the first time there that I've been able to do a double-act presentation. Which was a lot of fun! The Two Steves have been doing this double act thing for years, here we are with them (Steve Skidmore and Steve Barlow) and writer Andy Briggs, who all worked with their own groups of kids on the day. And we got to see a lot of kids! Over the two days, I got to work with over 800 Leicester school children on the city's innovative scheme, Whatever It Takes to get kids reading.

**Philip Reeve has blogged (magnificently) about our Cakes in Space day over on his website**, so pop over there for a read! (You can print out Cakes in Space drawing resources from my website.) I think one of my favourite things about the day was watching all these kids at the end of the session, rushing up to give Philip big hugs. I don't think he got hugged quite so much when he was doing his Mortal Engines talks. :)



So... JAMPIRES DAY! I spent quite awhile talking about my co-author on this picture book, the excellent David O'Connell, and drawing, of course.



A teacher took this photo with the kids from her class, who were very appropriately dressed in jammy red school jumpers.



The team that run Leicester Author Week is what makes it great; they manage to combine a warm, fun atmosphere with total professionalism. The equipment always works, the planning is very straightforward, and every kid gets a book at the end of the day. Big thanks to technician Mark Lambell, multi-lingual storyteller Jyoti Shanghavi and head organiser Kate Drurey (with jam pot).




We started with a big stage event and I read JAMPIRES to the kids and teachers, talked a bit about how I made it, took questions and we sang the Jampires song. Then we all moved over to the workshop tables, and I led them in drawing their own Jampires. (Hey look, there's Philip drawing a Jampire on the following day!)



We talked about how foods can inspire characters, which can, in turn inspire stories. So we all wrote down our favourite foods and came up with a character who's obsessed with that particular food. The kids helped me come up with Peter the Pizzapire. Then they drew their own, and we started creating a world for their character, a place where the story could happen. Check out Icy the Icecreampire....



...and Pommy the Popcornpire! I hope the kids were able to take away their characters and settings and turn them into full stories.



Another fun thing about Leicester Author Week is getting to see lovely colleagues. Here are lovely writers Bali Rai and John Dougherty. (John helped me last year in Leicester to come up with the tune for my There's a Shark in the Bath song, with lyrics by Philip Reeve! It's fun being able to work together.)



I mentioned to the kids that they can knit their own Jampire if they like, and the pattern's available, along with lots of other creative resources, on the fab website David O'Connell designed, jampires.com.



Since every kid gets a book, and there are over 800 kids, that means a LOT of book signing! Luckily I got to sign both sets of books the day before, so I didn't have to rush too much. Here are the boxes of JAMPIRES books that met me when I first got to the hotel. Quite late in the evening, I was joined by John Dougherty, who had only just flown in from the Emirates Lit Fest in Dubai! (I did that last year, going straight from Dubai to Leicester without time to drop off stuff at home. Stuart rescued me by coming with a fresh suitcase of clothes and I had a dramatic and chaotic repacking session in corner of Gatwick Airport. An elderly lady was sitting on a bench nearby, and shaking with laughter as my suitcase kept popping with tentacles, massive petticoats and pirate gear.) Despite his travels, John remembered to bring a full range of pen colours.



Our Leicester hotel was nice and quite quirky. Check out the unexplained portraits of 'Wills' in the restaurant. And the stairway that led to nowhere except a big porcelain dog, marked 'The Kennel'.



I don't usually get any time to explore Leicester, but this time my hotel was right near leafy New Walk, which gave me a whole different impression of the city.



I even popped quickly into the New Walk Museum, which is well worth visiting if you're in the area: cool Victorian paintings, dinosaur skeletons, mummies, and a collection of German Expressionist paintings and illustrations, among other things.



And we even got to join our Leicester friends Selina Lock and Jay Eales and Steve's wife Ali for a curry, hurrah! Huge thanks to the Leicester team, including Juliet Martin, Dan Routledge, Sandy Gibbons, Nicole Dishington (here with Andy Briggs) and everyone who made it happen! You can follow Whatever It Takes on Twitter as @LeicesterWiT.

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6. mongoose in a space suit



(From Twitter)

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7. pictures mean business: historic moment!

At last, it's happened! The Bookseller trade magazine, from this week, is listing writers AND illustrators in the sales rankings for illustrated books! Hooray!!! This might look like a small thing, but it's a good start to being taken seriously as professionals who contribute to book sales.

Big thanks to journalist Charlotte Eyre and editor Philip Jones for making this happen. See here, you can spot Tony Ross, Garry Parsons and Axel Scheffler, who wouldn't have been listed as of last week:



If you take a look at their covers, you can immediately see these books aren't just words and paper; so much of what makes them is the illustrations:



Huge thanks to everyone who's been supporting the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign! Even when we've pointed things out, people have been incredibly helpful and made changes; there's no lack of goodwill, it's just sometimes people haven't noticed illustrators being left out. So what's happened so far?

What have we definitely achieved?

1. Carnegie listing: illustrators were included on the Carnegie medal longlist.

Writers were always listed on the Greenaway lists, even though it's an illustration award, and the listings had followed a long-standing format, using incomplete data supplied by Nielsen. (Philip Reeve has always freely credited me as a co-author for Oliver and the Seawigs so our own listing there was obviously incorrect. He's blogged about it here.) The committee still need to consider how illustrations play a part in judging these books, and if they can accept co-authored books in future lists.

2. An online and printed apology from The Bookseller for feature article celebrating writer Michael Rosen as the creator of the We're Going on a Bear Hunt picture book with no mention of illustrator Helen Oxenbury.

This kind of omission has been common in the media generally and hopefully we'll be seeing less of it. But The Bookseller is a trade magazine, and we really need our own book people to be pioneers in this - bloggers, publishers, parents, teachers, people who already love illustrated books.

3. The Book People amended the listings of winners on the website for the Red House Children's Book Awards to include illustrator Oliver Jeffers in the award for The Day the Crayons Quit.

Only writer Drew Daywalt had been credited, although apparently Jeffers was also credited in the printed press release. The website manager still hasn't fixed the listings for the other nominees. The Book People's Twitter spokesperson explained that they gathered their own data, but the website didn't allow enough characters on the line to include two names (so at least one co-author was also left out). The spokesperson said it might take awhile to fix this but they'd get on the case.

4. The Reading Agency amended their Summer Reading Challenge Record Breakers book collections online lists to include illustrators.

They had included some illustrators but not all, and they explained that their data came from the publishers. Kudos to them, they were very quick to fix this, and thanks to writer Caryl Hart for leading the way on this one.

5. The Bookseller magazine has begun listing illustrators in sales charts.



What still needs to happen?

1. The big book databases are still faulty.

These subscription-financed companies are still pumping out book information to many different sources that doesn't include the name of the illustrator (or often the translator). This is partly because their systems are badly in need of upgrading and partly because publishers still aren't filling in all the relevant 'meta data' when they register their books. Here's what's happening so far:

* Journalist at The Bookseller Charlotte Eyre and my agent, Jodie Hodges, are looking into this so they can go right to the companies with well-researched questions. So let them know if you have any good information or insights on the subject. I'm like most illustrators, I know something's wrong but I still don't know exactly what, because I don't have access to any of these subscription-only databases.

* Publishers, we're asking you: please, please be sure to fill in at least the names of your writers, illustrators and translators. And it would be great if you could include illustrator names on the front covers of illustrated books, to make the illustrator name easier to spot.

2. The wider media still needs to realise illustrators have a major role in creating picture books.

I don't want this to become a sort of witch hunt for people who accidentally leave out illustrators, but when, say, The Guardian does a features specifically about picture books, it seems nuts not to include the illustrators. Here's an example from World Book Day. The girl in the picture has made a terrific Superworm costume, based on the book by writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. The costume is a based on Axel's paintings of Superworm, but the journalist credits the book as 'Superworm by Julia Donaldson'. Even the parent is more clued in, recognising the 'Axel Scheffler style eyes', but Axel's name should really be in the book credits. Let's let children (and their parents) be inspired by illustrators as well as writers.



3. Teachers need reminded of the importance of illustration.

My Superkid co-author, writer Claire Freedman, supportively retweeted my bafflement at this World Book Day classroom poster. I love the enthusiasm of the teacher who made it, but since the whole poster is based on the visuals of Superkid, why has he or she only included Claire's name? (Claire didn't decide how Superkid was going to look.)



Teachers are missing a trick, if they're not teaching their kids that there's more than one role in creating a picture book, and that stories can be told through both writing AND drawing. Some people get into stories through words, some through pictures, and most through a combination of both. And drawing can be a way in to storytelling for many children. People who train teachers, if you could flag this to them, that would be wonderful.

4. ACLS payments.

To be honest, I don't know anything about this yet, but writer-illustrator Debi Gliori has flagged it:
The ALCS site only has categories for author, co-author, contributor etc on its site when one is entering books to be included for future royalty payments. When I coauthored or in other words illustrated a few books, it deemed my contribution to be 0% and credited me accordingly. That needs fixed too.

Does anyone want to get on the case with this one?

Again, thanks for your support, and if you could keep using the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag, that would be great! (Click here for past blog articles on the topic.) This affects everyone, not just illustrators. We'll get better illustrated books if people can do it for a living.

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8. world book day 2015 costume round-up!

If you follow this blog, you'll know I love dressing up, and it's SUCH a rush to see other people dressed up as characters in books I've helped create! So here's this year's round-up, and it's SUPER EXCITING. Check out Oliver and Iris from Oliver and the Seawigs:


Poppy, tweeted by @rebeccamascull; mermaid tweeted by @HollySwainUK

And a KILLER CAKE from Cakes in Space! (I was SO hoping Philip Reeve and I would get a character from that one, hooray!)


Tweeted by @RachLilBC

Check out this spooky Jampire!! David O'Connell and I were hugely chuffed to see this!


Tweeted by @nidpor


Claire Freedman and I were thrilled to see some caped heroes from Superkid!


Tweeted by @alexchiorando and @annaborthwick2


Joel, via Facebook

And here were some of my other favourite costumes! Check out Larry Ladybird from the Gary's Garden comics in The Phoenix Comic by Gary Northfield.


Via Caroline Smith on Facebook

Be sure to check out his Gary's Garden book of collected strips; it's ace. And check out the brand-new trailer for Gary's book Julius Zebra!



Last one, Joe Undrill dressed as Fish-Head Steve, by Jamie Smart. Fabulous!

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9. the kitschies awards and the black tentacle!

Happy World Book Day, everyone! I've already seen one costume tweeted by Rebecca Mascull of her daughter Poppy, dressed up as Oliver from Oliver and the Seawigs. So fab, GO POPPY!



Last night we celebrated 'the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic'. I've blogged in the past about The Kitschies awards, but last week I was surprised to get a special request from organiser Glen Mehn to come to the ceremony to accept their Black Tentacle award. Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman won it last year, so I was more than surprised! Here's Glen presenting, and Anne Perry, who started up The Kitschies with her partner, Jared Shurin, painting names on the tentacle trophies. (She made the trophies but didn't know who was going to win this year so she painted the names on the spot.)



One of the great things about The Kitschies is that they have a special award for book cover artwork, such an important part of making books awesome. The winner of this year's cover award - The Inky Tentacle - was Glenn O’Neill, for Tigerman by Nick Harkaway (who coincidentally won The Red Tentacle back in 2013).



One of the highlights of my evening was meeting these two illustrators, Jim Kay (who won the Greenaway for A Monster Calls and is currently illustrating the new Harry Potter covers), and up-and-coming DAPS; the two of them gave a great presentation and were just so... goshdarn NICE. I hope to see a lot more of these dudes in the future.



I didn't win The Black Tentacle for a book, it's more a judges' discretion general sort of award for 'outstanding contribution to geek culture'. And it gave me a chance to talk about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, which I feel really follows the work Malorie Blackman's been doing with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Getting into the book business can take a long time and it can be extremely difficult to make a living at it. Which can make it very elitist, since people with family money, or who are supported by earning partners have a huge advantage. That's tragic for books, because it means we hear a lot less from single people, and people who can't afford to be fully competitive by illustrating or writing full-time.

There are a lot of reasons for this elitism that need tackled, but the most clear-cut way I've spotted is by calling for illustrators to be recognised for their work. It's something everyone agrees with, in theory, but illustrators still get left out in awards listings, when writers show off their new book covers, in the media. And one of the reasons for this is faulty META DATA, a current buzzword in the business. When publishers submit information about their books that gets used by everyone else, a lot of time the illustrator (and translator) information is missing, or isn't provided in a useful way by the data sources. (For example, on Neilsen BookScan you can search the entire sales figures of a writer but not of an illustrator. So trade media such as The Bookseller magazine don't credit illustrators with having any effect on sales, because they don't have the figures.)


Photo tweeted by @EwaSR

There are many other ways we'll need to encourage diversity, but this particularly battle seems manageable, something we could actually achieve in the next few years if book people get behind it. For #PicturesMeanBusiness, we're challenging

* Data providers to update their software, making sales figures searchable by illustrator (and translator), and not hiding them in a second optional tier of information.

* Publishers to fill out ALL the data, including illustrator and translator, not just the mandatory field for the writer.

* Writers and Publicists, when announcing your new book cover, let us know who created it! When you tweet images by your illustrator, tag them, and when you use their artwork on your website, be sure people can see who made it.

* Illustrators: get on Twitter! The publishing world loves it, and it's much easier to credit you if you have a profile with your website link in it. You never need tweet, but set up this profile so people can link easily to you. (Everyone else, if illustrators aren't on Twitter, find creative ways still to mention them!)



Big congratulations to the other Kitschies winners! The Invisible Tentacle (for Natively Digital Fiction) went to Kentucky Route Zero, Act III, by Cardboard Computer; The Inky Tentacle (for Cover Art) to Glen O'Neill for Tigerman; The Golden Tentacle (for debut novel) to Hermione Eyre for Viper Wine; The Red Tentacle (for novel) to Andrew Smith for Grasshopper Jungle.



My husband, Stuart, snapped these photos with Hermione Eyre, and Kitschies judge (previous Red Tentacle shortlister and hatted writer of reknown) Frances Hardinge. Listening to Frances describe books was like its own work of art; she speaks like beautiful writing, it's amazing.


Photo tweeted by @natalielaverick

Big thanks and congratulations to all the hardworking Kitschies team, judges, shotlisted creators and winners! You can see more tweets from the ceremony on #TheKitschies hash tag and find out about the shortlisted books on The Kitschies website. Here's a last little peek at The Black Tentacle and Jim Kay with previous Red Tentacle winner Patrick Ness.

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10. wee red writer interview



I've done an interview with Edinburgh-based Julie Stirling over on the Wee Red Writer website about my work making books, about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, and some tips for budding illustrators. You can read it in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. And get another peek at my Scholastic UK picture book coming out in March, Dinosaur Police.

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11. world book day 2015: biggest book show on earth!

Today World Book Day UK hosted my co-author Philip Reeve and me along with a stupendous line-up of book people. Do we look excited?



It's been a ten-city, ten-day tour, and we were the London stop.



I never thought I'd be on stage with the amazing Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Francesca Simon, Holly Smale and Steven Butler!



The venue was a big surprise. I'd never visited Walthamstow Assembly Hall before, and it felt like the big People's Palaces I'd seen during my student days in Moscow. Heavy, grand, and a bit imposing. But cool!




Check out the words above this doorway: FELLOWSHIP IS LIFE AND THE LACK OF FELLOWSHIP IS DEATH. ...WHOAAAA.



I guess it's the Fellowship of the Rings, check out the ceiling pattern. Here's what the hall looked like before the school coaches rolled in. (That's Reeve ahead, carrying my red Sea Monkey bag and his ukulele.)



And here's our presenter, magnificent ringmaster Steven Butler, who grew out his twirly moustache just for the occasion. You might know him as the guy who writes the Dennis the Menace books. He's been ringmaster for the whole tour, and he's still on his feet. Wow!



Steven memorized 'three unknown facts' about each of the speakers, which was rather impressive. My facts were:
1. When Sarah was born, her parents thought she was a sea monkey.
2. When she escaped from the zoo, they were sure of it.
3. She now draws sea monkeys in an attempt to distance herself from these silly creatures.

Philip's facts:
1. Philip wrote his first book when he was five, and it was called When Spike and Spook went to the Moon.
2. Philip is actually a highly advanced android named Wilf.
3. Philip hates being called Wilf; please never call him that.



Here we are, just before going on stage.



And we did our thing, drawing a Sea Monkey, singing some songs, reading from Oliver and the Seawigs, demonstrating the Power of Science with the Nom-o-Tron from Cakes in Space. (I told the kid that if they wanted to learn how to draw their own Sea Monkey, they could find out on my website.)



I love meeting other authors at festivals and things, but I hardly ever get to sit and watch their talks; I either have to leave or we're on at the same time. So it was great to get the chance to watch Holly Smale, writer of the Geek Girl books, in action!



Holly got almost as much fanfare as Jacqueline Wilson, who entered to screams that rock stars would envy.



Jacqueline's famous not only for her books, but also for the chunky rings she always wears. So Steven decided he had to give her a run for her money on that front. Check out all the BLING!



We got to hear Michael Rosen tell stories:



And Francesca Simon talk about Horrid Henry (and Perfect Peter):



Holly accidentally left her phone on-stage, so Steven took a big selfie.



I thought, with that many other amazing authors present, we'd have a great time but probably not sell a lot of books. But I was WRONG! Oxford University Press brought a big table full of books and sold every single one, and kids were sad not to get even more! The kids were going absolutely mad buying everyone's books and getting them signed, it was awesome. And even kids who didn't get our books brought Holly Smale's World Book Day edition of Geek Girl up for me to sign. So I drew geeky Sea Monkeys, which was fun.



Huge thanks to the colourful Kirsten Grant and her team, who organised the tour, Steve who did our tech, Steven for being a wonderful ringmaster, Newham Bookshop for organising books, our lovely OUP publicists Harriet Bayly & Camille Davis, and the local libraries for the use of the venue. And, of course, to all the schools who came along, and to my fellow authors, who made the day such fun. I'm excited to see which book characters people are going to dress up as on Thursday, World Book Day!

WORLD BOOK DAY DRESSING UP:
If you dress up as a character in one of my books with Philip or any of the other books, please please send along a photo, I'd love to see! Here are a few ideas from past years, if you're looking for some inspiration:

From There's a Shark in the Bath:

From Oliver and the Seawigs:

From Jampires (you can print a free mask from here!)


Princess Spaghetti from You Can't Eat a Princess! and You Can't Scare a Princess! (tiara-making tips here):

And you can download and print a free GOBLIN mask from Reeve's GOBLINS books!


Reeve and I would love love LOVE to see some Cakes in Space costumes! Astra, Pilbeam the robot, Poglites, killer cakes....DO IT DO IT DO IT!

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12. new cakes in space cover!

The hardcover version of Cakes in Space has been out since last autumn, so my publishers are gearing up to release the paperback this summer. The pictures inside will be black and white instead of colour, but I got to work with Oxford University Press designer Jo Cameron to put together a new cover for it. Here it is!



I really like it. We debated for a long time if it would be better to have a black or blue background, but once I saw it all together with the blue, I decided Jo had made a good decision, nice and zingy. And I like the slightly retro Russian cosmonaut look of the colours and stars. Also, we're still getting exciting sightings of our poster in the London Underground! Here's one from ace book blogger Sister Spooky:



In other news, I've been interviewed by Edinburgh-based book blogger Julie Stirling and we talk about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to get illustrators better recognised for their work. A lot of it's to do with mistakes in what's called 'meta data', and we're trying to learn more about it so we can fix the problem. You can read the interview here.

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13. super librarian poster - in welsh!

Remember this sign? I've had so many people spot it in libraries around Britain and abroad.



And I've had requests to translate it into Welsh, so with the linguistic help of Bob Miles & friends, here's a version that you can download and print. If you know anyone who would like it, please let them know! I'm not asking for any money for it, but if you could leave a note in the comments here to let me know who you are and where you're using it, I'd love to know!



Click here to download in colour as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

I've also created a black and white version if you'd like to colour it yourself or have kids in the library colour it for you:



Click here to download in black & white as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

And here's the version in English, which you can download from my earlier blog post. Thanks to all the great feedback from Wales about last year's Mythical Maze themed Summer Reading Challenge!



Keep up the work, fabulous librarians! Your training and skills at connecting kids with reading are a backbone of our society and we think you're awesome. We hope governments and councils everywhere comes to see things the same way.

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14. happy birthday, co-author!



(If you've never read our Dartmoor Pegasus story, you can catch up here.)

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15. pictures mean business: 'after careful consideration...'

So here's my latest update on the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. Like most illustrators, I still don't know very much about why we regularly get left out of being credited for the books we illustrate, but I'm discovering more and more that it's not a complete lack of respect from people in the publishing industry. It all keeps coming back to two things:

1. Tediously faulty data systems, or 'meta data'
2. People who don't think to question this faulty data

That's why we had an article in The Bookseller quoting Axel Scheffler feeling undervalued for his work, right above a listing where he's not mentioned with the picture book he illustrated (Superworm). It wasn't deliberate, someone just didn't put two-and-two together:



It happened again today: the Red House Children's Book Awards were announced and when I clicked over to their award page of their website, only the writers of the books were listed. Which is odd, because you can see a little picture of illustrator Oliver Jeffers on their home page. So they were obviously thinking about him, they just forgot to put his name into the listing.



Now anyone who looks at Drew and Oliver's book sees it's highly dependent on illustrations and Oliver's hand-drawn lettering. And you may think, does this even matter? Everyone knows Oliver illustrated that book. ...Well, yes, it does. That press release will have gone out to the media and there's a good chance many of them will plug the data into their articles without even checking to see the illustrator's been left out. Illustrators rely heavily on brand identity for ongoing sales, and this doesn't help.




I (rather nervously) brought it up with the award's hosts, The Book People, on Twitter, and they're like most of us, they're people who love books and want to get things right, they're just rushing a bit and don't have the latest software.



It wasn't just illustrators; even a co-writer (Amanda Swift) got left out because they couldn't fit two names on the date entry line.

But the whole point of these awards is publicity and raising the profile of children's books, so it would make sense for awards people to stop and think how they're presenting this information ('after careful consideration') to the public. I'm sure the judges put a lot of thought into the selection, and the website people are separate from the judging process, but it makes the awards look slapdash, like the people involved haven't actually sat down and looked at the physical books, to notice that they're illustrated. I'm sure this isn't true, but it's not a clever way to present the public face of the award.

I was happy to see a few hours later that the website had already been updated to include Oliver's name. Hurrah! So it IS possible, it's not too much of a programming nightmare. But there are several other illustrators who need added - David Tazzyman (illustrator of Demon Dentist), Thomas Flintham (Baby Aliens Got my Teacher), and Bruce Ingman (Let Loose the Leopard). And throughout the website, there are lots of other illustrators left unlisted (for example, David Tazzyman and Sarah Horne in their Pick of the Year list). Here's the fixed entry:



Kudos to the rep at The Book People for replying so quickly and starting to get on the case! I realise they honestly do mean well.



But it's a call for people to think when they get book data. I'm hoping very much we can fix some of the most cumbersome systems (Nielsen - and Biblio/Virtusales, which I only just heard about) and encourage publishers enter all the right information. (Good ol' Nosy Crow...)



But until then, publishing world and media, if you love book illustration, please stand by us and fix this faulty data manually.

Keep an eye on the hash tag and add your comments: #PicturesMeanBusiness

. . .
NOOOOOOOO!!!! Just as a saved this blog post, I saw a tweet from wonderful writer Caryl Hart. And I love The Reading Agency, they hosted me as last year's Summer Reading Challenge illustrator, but guess what, they've forgotten to credit a lot of illustrators on their book list. And again, it's most likely a data problem. And people not paying attention. ARGHHHHHHH. Please, someone just make it stop...!



(See the picture book list here.)

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16. some weekend birthdays!

Happy birthday to my lovely husband, Stuart! I painted this picture for him, not quite knowing where I was going with it, but he's taking Russian language classes, and the character of Vern the sheep (in my comic book Vern and Lettuce) is very much based on his personality. (I wasn't implying that he has a sheep in his trousers or anything. Oh! Also, it is the Chinese Year of the Sheep.) Stuart's been such wonderful support this year as I flit about and stress over book deadlines.



And here's another picture for Francesca Simon:



I was inspired by her big hair, and by the time she modelled my Norse god wings at the Edinburgh Book Festival (she's written books about Norse gods):



...and camel riding together in Dubai at the Emirates Lit Fest. (Yes, that IS a camel unicorn in the painting.)



Congrats to Francesca on a great run on the Horrid Henry books, 21 years! Here's an article about it in the latest issue of The Bookseller:



And lovely birthday cake by Great British Bake Off's Frances Quinn, snapped by Orion publicist Nina Douglas:



Francesca and I are performing in one of the events of the World Book Day whistlestop tour, so I'll be seeing her again soon, along with ringmaster Steven Butler, Philip Reeve, Holly Smale, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. Good times ahead!

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17. sleepy pegasus

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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18. julius zebra: this book is funny!

I got to be a judge in the final year of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and since it ended, there's been a big gap in the recognition of funny books. Many of the best of these books are illustrated, but too wordy to bag the Greenaway illustration medal, and too reliant on pictures to win the Carnegie writing prize. Funny books are more difficult to write than serious books or even books that make us cry. It's easy to dismiss funny things as less consequential or important than serious ones, but political cartoons that cleverly capture an idea often have far more impact than an impassioned article. Sales show that kids LOVE funny books, and laughing at a situation can often help take away the fear of things that would otherwise be scary or worrying. Comic timing is one of the most difficult skills to master... so why haven't we been heralding Britain's best?

Well, never fear! Some of my friends are ON THE CASE and have been scheming to develop This Book is Funny!, with plans to seek out the funniest books. I was at the pub a couple weeks ago with Alex Milway, Gary Northfield, David O'Connell and Matt Baxter (who all make funny books and comics) and Matt showed me the red logo he'd designed. Here it is!



And the very first book they're featuring on the website - www.thisbookisfunny.com - is my studio mate's upcoming book, Julius Zebra. Wahoo! Here are a few words from Alex Milway about the project:




And here is their very straightforward mission:



So plans for this include reviewing funny books on the website, hosting events, and supplying a red sticker to booksellers so that customers can more easily find funny books if they know that's what their kids love.

Now, my studio mate Gary Northfield has been making funny comics and books for years. You might recognise some of these titles - Derek the Sheep (his first book with some of his collected Beano strips), The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs (dinosaur adventure comics), Gary's Garden (collected strips from The Phoenix Comic) and his ongoing Phoenix Comic work.



But Julius Zebra is Gary's first book that isn't a comic. I couldn't help smiling when I saw his tweet, the first time he saw it printed up:



And here it is! It's a lovely thing, a solid hardback with beautiful stripey zebra endpapers.



This book's going to be a winner with so-called 'reluctant readers' because every single story page is lightened by at least one picture. (The Horrible Histories book team also made this decision, as it proves so effective in keeping kids turning pages.) Schools will love it because of its researched ancient Roman theme, but serious history doesn't get in the way of plain silliness.

The book's a pleasing mix of plain text and cartoons, such as these, when we first meet young Julius. He hates going to the stinky water hole with his family and shows off his new-found independence:



Look at him go, he's so confident, is Julius:



Ha ha, oh wait, maybe not!



Oh no! A lion has driven the animals away from the watering hold and Julius is separated from his family. The lion chases Julius and the warthog and all three of them fall into a hole, which turns out to be a TRAP. They're captured by humans and taken all the way across the sea, to Rome!



At first, Julius is quite excited, because he's heard that they're all going to the circus. He's excited to see juggling monkeys. But then he discovers they won't be watching the circus, they're going to be performing:



He gradually learns that it won't even be a jolly sort of performance...



They are going to be thrown into the arena to fight trained GLADIATORS.



And bizarrely, they don't do too badly on their first appearance in THE COLOSSEUM! After Julius panics, he tries to fight back and hits a gladiator with a sword, and the crowd takes pity on him. Emperor Hadrian spares the animals' lives and enrolls them in his world-famous Gladiator School, Ludus Magnus. Their instructor, Septimus, is used to training tough men, and is less than thrilled when they present themselves at roll call.



One of my favourite things about the book is the way the text breaks for little comic aside comments. This one's quite sweet:



I love the way Gary draws, even his wobbly energetic lines are funny, with their bugged eyes and gaping mouths. Don't be deceived in thinking this kind of drawing is fast and easy; Gary really poured himself into this book and it took AGES to write and draw (and redraw and redraw).



You might notice that all the pages have Roman numerals instead instead of our standard Arabic numbering system. Which means each page number is like a code to be worked out, and Gary provides an explanation at the end of the book:



He also includes a four-page glossary, that's mostly educational, but Gary's personality keeps coming through.



And right at the end of the book... oh, look! It's a photo I took across the desk, from where I sit in the studio.



Gary worked with editor Lizzie Spratt at Walker Books, the same person who edited his Derek and Teenytinysaurs books, and with designer Jack Noel.



Oo, and look, it's funny writer Philip Ardagh, author of The Eddie Dickens trilogy with David Roberts and The Grunts books with Axel Scheffler! So what does Ardagh have to do with this book?



Ah, look there, right across the top of the book. A lovely quotation!



So this book launches at the beginning of March with Walker Books and will make a fabulous gift and be perfect for stocking in libraries. I anticipate people asking which age it's best for, and I'd say ages 6-12, but younger kids will enjoy it being read to them, and there's no reason to say adults and Gary's comics fans won't enjoy it, too. Gary's busy working on the second Julius Zebra book right now.



Congratulations, Gary! You've gone and written a blinkin' novel!

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19. a poster for national libraries day!

Sat, 7 Feb is National Libraries Day! Our libraries are facing huge challenges right now with all the budget cuts, and it's a great time to show your support. Libraries with trained librarians are a wonderful haven for readers, especially children, who can work their way through huge amounts of books in a single sitting.

I've made a poster for the occasion, but I'll need your help colouring it in! Librarians (and anyone else), feel free to print it out and use it at your libraries! You could colour it yourself and hang it up, or have sheets available on tables with colouring supplies for visitors. Download an A4 PDF here!



(And you can also still download the previous poster, 'A Trained Librarian is a Powerful Search Engine with a Heart' here.) The Twitter hash tag for National Libraries Day seems to be #NLD15. Give your favourite librarian a shout-out!

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20. reeve & mcintyre: bishop's stortford lit fest & society of authors

Whenever my Cakes in Space co-author Philip Reeve lands his spaceship in London to do an event, we tend to pack in a few more events to make the most of his visit. This week was a busy one! On Wednesday night, we managed to catch a party for The Bookseller magazine at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross. Then we were off on a train bright and early to visit the Bishop's Stortford Festival of Literature. (Here's a warm-up picture I drew on their flip chart, to add to the prep school library's picture collection.)



Visits are always far better when the kids are prepared. Our first event was in front of hundreds of kids and they'd all read BOTH Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space! Here's a great drawing of killer cakes by one of the girls in the after-lunch book club meeting:




Dropping in to see the book club between our two big stage events was fun; they sat around us and told us what they liked best about the books and we got to sit and soak it up and eat star-themed cupcakes. Nice!



Here are some of the kids at the end of our second stage event, holding aloft the sea monkeys who joined in so vigourously with the chorus of our Sea Monkey sea shanty.



Huge thanks to the team who made it all happen! We hope lots of kids (and maybe some adults, too!) went away inspired to write and draw stories. From the left, here's fabulous stage technician Martin, festival oganiser Rosie Pike, Lynn Bailey (bookseller from the excellent Norfolk Children's Book Centre) and poet Stewart Henderson, who was also doing events with the kids that day at Bishop's Stortford College prep school. I got to wear my brand-new space dress, created by tailor Esther Marfo.



After signing loads of books, we hustled off to the train and rushed down to London to the Society of Authors headquarters, near Gloucester Road tube station. (Note background nosepicker.)



I'd been wearing the blue hair all day, so I switched over to a headscarf in an attempt at a slightly more grown-up look. Or something like that. (Here's a picture by our event technician, Niall Slater)



Writer, illustrator and illustrious YouTuber Shoo Rayner chaired our session and gave us a great intro and helped with question time. I didn't have any photos from the session so I've raided Twitter:



Philip and I talked about how we got started collaborating on our books with Oxford University Press, and we also talked about working relationships we've had with other people we've made books with. We also talked about writers and illustrators being co-authors, something I wrote about in an article for the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. We even had librarian Joy Court in the audience, who was so wonderfully instrumental recently in changing the Carnegie listings to include the illustrator when the books are illustrated. (Here was my blog post about it, which got constantly edited as the situation changed.) Right at the end of the event, we gave the audience a first-ever public reading of our story The Dartmoor Pegasus.



Big thanks to Jo McCrum and the Children's Writers & Illustrators Group for hosting our talk! It was fun bringing Oliver and the Seawigs to the place where the title and central story idea sprang out of (the acronym CWIG). If you've written or illustrated some books, I definitely recommend joining the Society of Authors; they're our best advocates when it comes to politics, complicated contracts, otherwise-unknown sources of money, and tricky legal things I can barely get my head around. Plus, they do events like this one! You can follow them on Twitter at @Soc_of_Authors.



Thanks to Shoo for being lots of fun and chairing, we had a good laugh with him afterward over dinner. He hosts a YouTube drawing channel, where you can learn how to draw almost more things than you can imagine: check out the Shoo Rayner Drawing channel.

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21. digging deep: the real reason illustrators keep getting overlooked

A couple weeks ago I was exchanging e-mails with journalist Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller magazine, and was pleased when this article came out, quoting Axel Scheffler, Ted Dewan, An Vrombaut, Simon James and me about how illustrators are disgruntled about being left out of so many mentions of their books.



You can read the full article online, but here's a clip:



It's why I argue that people should say 'writer and illustrator' not 'author and illustrator', since BOTH the person writing and the person drawing are telling the story. Both are authors. (You can read a more lengthy article I wrote about this a few months ago: Why I hate the word 'author'.)



So I was shocked today to read the feature article in The Bookseller, lauding Michael Rosen as the creator of the enduring picture book We're Going on a Bear Hunt with an obvious lack of reference to its illustrator, Helen Oxenbury, although it used her images. Here's the beginning of the online version (hidden behind the paywall):




And the print version:



The only mention given to Oxenbury was by Rosen, a sentence in his profile next to Eric Carle. Even the listing with selling data should have given a clue, with her name written next to Rosen's on the book cover. But it only mentioned Rosen:



Now, I know this isn't Rosen's doing. He's freely credited Oxenbury at other times with her magnificent achievements in the book, and this Guardian article about the book from 2012 lets Oxenbury talk about her contribution to the book before Rosen. (You can read the full article here: How we made.)



You might ask, 'Does it even matter, as long as kids are able to find and read the book? If I insist on credit for my picture books, am I just being A BIG ATTENTION-SEEKER?'

...First, I need to say a few things about the idea of 'recognition' for an illustrator
:

1. Illustrators do NOT just want recognition because we are insecure and need pats on the back to tell us we're doing a good job.

2. Illustrations do NOT usually care much about being recognised in the street. Very often we are quiet people and would rather go unnoticed while we sketch.


3. Illustrators do NOT usually count trophy cups and television appearances as the pinnacle of our careers. We're much happier when we get a freshly printed copy of our book, open it, and feel proud of what we've done. We're happy when its intended audience gets to read it. We're happy when we get paid enough money to live on.

4. Illustrators are discovering more and more that it's not enough to sit at a desk and turn out beautiful illustrations. In a media world driven by celebrity culture, it's the people who appear on television and national radio who sell the most books. (David Walliams, for example, has a massive head-start on us.) If no one knows who we are, we'll have an awfully hard time making a living. If there's any way we can get a mention on telly or national radio, it really helps sales.

5. Illustrators (sometimes grudgingly) tear ourselves away from the work we most love to take trains and buses around the country to tell people about our work, to 'make a name for ourselves'. We're not doing it to get popular and 'recognised', we just hope enough people will buy our books to let us keep doing this job for a living. We end up working several full-time jobs at once - illustrator, publicist, book-keeper, event organiser - and we get incredibly tired.


6. Most illustrators aren't so-called 'media whores'. But my publicists and I noticed that when I read two minutes of Oliver and the Seawigs on Radio 4 Woman's Hour, our book sales had an absolutely enormous spike. So anyone with business sense will look out for opportunities like that.


7. When illustrators read articles by people in our own book industry - often even people in the children's book industry - who leave our names out of publicity about our picture books and focus solely on the writer, we feel like we're fighting a losing battle if even our own people won't support us.

8. Many illustrators are scared. We don't have pensions so we basically need to do this job until we die, unless we have a mega-hit like The Gruffalo (which almost no one will). But we already get stretched to the limits of our energy and worry we won't be able to keep up when we start approaching the age of Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr or Quentin Blake. And by then, it won't be easy to switch careers.

'...Well', you say.

'That's a hard lot for you illustrators. But I'm not an illustrator, why should this be important to me?'

1. Book quality: As a reader, you'll get less quality collaborations. If illustrators continue to be left out of book listings, we have no way of advancing our careers. We sadly begin to realise that the only way we can make a name for ourselves is to write our own books. Not every illustrator can write well. I don't believe every illustrator should have to write. I love collaborating with Philip Reeve on my books, but I still feel I need to come up with some solo books or my work will go unnoticed by the media and I won't be able to keep doing this job.

2. Diverse books: Do you want books only illustrated by people who are wealthy enough to do it as a hobby? I'm not sure I could have gotten into my job without my husband supporting me for ten years while I fought my way in. I know a few people who have done it completely alone, without earning partners or trust funds, but most fail, and the few who succeed have gone through economic hell. If we want stories told by a wide range of people (and illustrators tell a story in a picture book as much as the writers), we need to let these people build a public career. You can help by naming both writer and illustrator when you mention the book.

3. Teachers and parents are missing a trick: Children find drawing hugely inspiring. I see time and time again that children who would never write a words-only story will happily pick up a pencil and create a comic strip. I showed Oliver and the Seawigs to a 10-year-old boy who kept reading until he came to the first page without pictures, when he put it down. Why do you think books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates are overwhelmingly popular? It's because they have lots of interplay between words and pictures.



4. Business is missing a trick: The Bookseller is full of articles about how the children's book industry is becoming a greater and greater force in sales. Children's books are doing better than any other kind of book. And many, many of the best ones are books illustrated by Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Martin Brown and his Horrible Histories team, etc.

But... here we come to another huge problem, one which I'm only beginning to understand.

I first heard about it when I queried the Carnegie Medal listing of only writers, not illustrators, on their shortlist. (The Greenaway Medal listing included writers, even though it's an illustration award.) That was a bit of a saga (which you can read about here: The Carnegie Co-Author Conundrum).



The result of my queries was that the prize's chair, Joy Court, investigated and quickly changed the listing. She's a kind-hearted librarian who truly loves books, and she was happy to bring about the change.



Court explained to me that they were following a format that had been used for years and years, and they just hadn't questioned it. But she also mentioned the influence of something called a 'Nielsen listing', of which I'd vaguely heard mention before. It's how the Carnegie committee received Oliver and the Seawigs' information from the publisher, and the information only included the name of the writer (Philip Reeve). When the Carnegie website person plugged the information straight into their website shortlisting, the illustrator got left out.

Now, this next bit is going to sound like boring business-y stuff. It's information I hardly know anything about. Almost none of the illustrators I know have any inkling of how this all works. But I'm starting to suspect more and more that it can mean life or death to our careers.

Take a look at this part of The Bookseller article:



It wasn't just lazy journalism that left out Helen Oxenbury's name. This article was all about the tracking of how books sell, and while you can instantly find out how Rosen's books are doing on Nielsen BookScan, you can't track how Oxenbury's books are selling, except for the ones she wrote herself.

I've never actually seen a Nielsen BookScan or BookData entry; it's paid-subscription-only, accessed mostly by booksellers, publishers, librarians, agents and book journalists. Here's the Nielsen BookData website:



From what I gather, you can look up sales figures if you do a search for an author's name, or if you do a search for a book title. But you can't get figures by searching for an illustrator's name.



And these easy-to-access sales figures are how business gauge how books are doing, and how they publicise the successes. If the journalist only has information about the picture book's writer, they will publicise that the writer is doing well. Awards will be given to the writer. The picture book writer will get media appearances and invitations to do high-profile events. People will buy the writer's picture books. If the writer does particularly well, certain shops may stock only picture books by that writer, as is the case with airport shops who exclusively stock picture books by Julia Donaldson (because they know from Nielsen BookScan that her books sell well).

So where does that leave Axel Scheffler? He benefits from Donaldson's sales, and it's his work that the buyers are spotting in the shops and gravitating toward. If he works with another writer, his work will be just as high-quality, but the shops may not stock that book because of Nielsen BookData. If Julia Donaldson works with an illustrator who's less popular, the books will still appear in shops, regardless. I love Julia Donaldson and have huge respect for her, but this system isn't fair on Axel, or on any of us.

Here are the UK books I've worked on:


And here are the books my agent tells me that show up if you look for me on Nielsen BookScan:


If no one can see the illustrators' names in listings, no one will know about us to give us awards. If no one can easily access the commercial value of our illustration across all the books we make, no one can assess the commercial value of our career. Our work means nothing to people in business. And illustrators have to be business people. We are not free-spirited fairies who live on dew drops.

Readers don't care about our commercial value - they just want good books - but people who publicise books do. And readers mostly discover books through publicity and the media. We need recognition for our value to business to survive.

My agent (who represents a lot of illustrators as well as writers) joked that the silver lining for illustrators is that, if we're doing poorly, no one knows that, either.



So what needs to change? At least two things would make a big difference:

1. Remember the illustrator. People in the book industry need to remember to list the writer AND the illustrator of a book. If a writer is showing off a book cover, mention the book cover's artist. Awards groups, list both creators, don't default to the writer.

2. It seems to me that Nielsen's software needs updating.



It sounds like Nielsen's had people tell them this, including my agent, and an influential book-industry person who direct-messaged me, but no luck so far.



Which makes me think, why would Nielsen feel they need to change? Apparently it's a monopoly, there are no other book-data systems vying for people's business. So searching Nielsen could possibly run like Amazon, where you can click on either name and turn up all that writer OR illustrator's books, but why would it bother? It doesn't have to worry about its public relations, since there aren't any other options. But as the children's book business is growing in relation to other parts of the business, they might start to find tracking illustrators more important in determining what sells best.

I should add that The Bookseller does care about its PR and getting things right, and its senior editor apologised. I love The Bookseller, subscribe to it, and I know its journalists are working flat-out and make mistakes like we all do. But Nielsen is not being our friend right now in this.



So what are we supposed to do? What can I do, as an illustrator who's all but invisible to Nielsen? Not a lot. But I know a lot of people who care passionately about books, including The Bookseller, The Society of Authors, editors, agents. And some of them might be able to make changes.

So this is a plea to anyone who can help us, please do your part to influence Nielsen.

I'll end with a tweet by Joy Court from the Carnegie prize:

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22. reeve & mcintyre book 3: pugs of the frozen north!

And here we have it, the big cover reveal! Reeve & McIntyre book 3 will be.... big drum roll....



And here's a look at the back cover, before it's even had the logo and a barcode whacked onto that yeti's tummy:



Philip Reeve and I are SOOO excited about this one! Stay posted for further updates, but here's a look at a few of the inside pages:



These pugs are brave and fierce!



Here's a little look at the town of Snowdovia, based on visits to Seldovia in Alaska and Skudeneshavn in Norway:



Pugs of the Frozen North doesn't launch until September! (Here's the Oxford University Press web page.)

...But in the meantime, catch up on these two FINE books if you haven't read them already! All three books feature different characters, but all are about kids going on weird and wonderful adventures into the unknown. (And check out the activity sheets for each of them - Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space.) I'd guess that they're for readers ages 7 to adult. But I know a lot younger kids have enjoyed having adults read the stories to them, and adults report happily read them with no kids in sight.



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23. crediting illustrators

Great to see this apology printed in today's copy of The Bookseller! Let's hope this means more attention to crediting illustrators, fingers crossed.


Photo tweeted by @childrensbookil

I think this is the article mentioned at the end, and you can catch up with what it's all about in my previous blog post, with some updates in the comments.

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24. pictures mean business: some challenges

Over the weekend, I had a direct-message Twitter conversation with writer-illustrator James Mayhew and he was suggesting we come up with a hash tag for this campaign to get illustrators credited for their work. We batted around ideas until I suggested #PicturesMeanBusiness, which we both thought seemed to fit in both senses of the phrase: Professional illustrators ARE business people, and we're standing up to be recognised as people who bring money into the economy with what we do.

But illustrating the hash tag is tricky! Corporation-approved 'business' images usually include a person in a suit, or rather safe, dull logos. I first thought of this one:

But it's boring. It's not really what I do. I don't go to work every day in a grey suit. Many of us love bright colours and draw very silly things. And that's not to say these images have no power or sales value, just that they're not drab. So for now, I’ve written the hash tag on a fat blue pegasus. (Why not?) But use the blue pencil if it makes you prefer, or better yet, rework the hash tag phrase using one of your own characters or images!



Update on the Nielsen situation: my agent Jodie Hodges and Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller are looking into how Nielsen listings work so we can be well-informed before approaching them. Basically, I've realised there's a problem and flagged it, but I don't have access to Nielsen BookScan so I don't know all the details of how it works. Very few illustrators do, we're all learning right now.

You can read my earlier post on the subject here.

So what does it mean if you support #PicturesMeanBusiness?

1. It means you believe illustration (and cover design) contributes to people's decisions to buy books.

2. It means you respect the profession of illustration as a proper skilled profession and not some cute little hobby.

3. It means you think top-quality illustrators should be able to make a living from their work.

4. It means you feel upset when you see a review of a much-loved picture book and it only mentions the writer's name.

5. It means you believe illustrators should be listed on databases with the books they've created, just like writers, in ways that their books and sales can be tracked. (If business can't see illustrators' contribution to business, they will assume illustration doesn't contribute.)

How can you support the awareness campaign?

1. Use the hash tag! If everyone adds #PicturesMeanBusiness to their tweets, it will keep the conversation all in one place, instead of slipping down the Twitter stream. Hash tags can also be used on Facebook and Instagram. We've seen the power of the hash tag in the #JeSuisCharlie movement.

2. PUBLISHER CHALLENGE! Be attentive about your Nielsen data! Whoever is entering the data, make sure they know it’s essential to include the name of the illustrator (and translator, where appropriate).

3. WRITER CHALLENGE! When you show off a beautiful new book cover, mention the people who made that cover happen! It might be the illustrator who also did the interior illustrations, or an artist paid to do a cover for a text-only book. It might be assembled by a designer. If it's your book cover, find out who made it and share the news! This information can be very hard for your readers to discover if you don't share it.



4. PUBLICIST CHALLENGE! Mention the cover artist! Lots of news books are coming out right now and you're tweeting covers. If you can't fit the name of the illustrator or designer in the main body of the tweet, consider including them in the 'Who's in this photo?' option:



People WANT to know this stuff! It makes your tweet more interesting and share-worthy. A couple days ago, I saw a lovely cover tweeted with no mention that it the image was created by Jon Klassen. JON KLASSEN! Best-selling writer-illustrator who won last year's Greenaway medal and the Caldecott medal in the USA. WHY wouldn't a publicist want to shout this from the rooftops?

5. BOOK LOVER CHALLENGE! Find out who drew the covers to your favourite books! See if they're on Twitter or have a website. Post the cover, the hash tag, the illustrator or designer's name, and some way we can find out more about them (their Twitter name or their website).



6. ILLUSTRATOR CHALLENGE! get a Twitter account. You don't need to write a single tweet, but if you can just have your name there, with your website in your profile, it makes it much easier to link to you. Encourage your illustrator friends just to get an account, with a web link.




As illustrators, we can also big up our book team.



In Jampires and Dinosaur Police, I've managed to get the names of the designer and editor into the books, which I'd love to do with all my books in the future. I think readers appreciate the extra information, and the editor and designer deserve credit, too.



And if you’re on Twitter, have a browse of the discussion happening already!

#PicturesMeanBusiness

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25. some more #nonidentikit drawings

Playing around with a nose shape... a couple more #NonIdentikit portraits. (You can read my Huffington Post article about the NonIdentikit Challenge.)



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